Motoring is a necessity for the majority of drivers. But as this year's Report shows it is rapidly becoming an unaffordable one. Economics has become the number one concern for drivers in every aspect of their motoring, from the number of journeys they make to how fast they drive.
This overriding concern means other issues have become less important. Last year's Report saw drivers becoming disillusioned with the wider world around them. This year drivers are resigned to the fact nothing they say or do seems to make any difference to transport policy or the costs they must pay to use their car. But the quest to make ends meet financially appears to mean they care less about this disenfranchisement than they did 12 months ago. When they do make demands they are moderate and in keeping with the general environment of austerity.
However, Government does need to factor into policy the effect of the high cost of motoring on different sectors of society, a finding highlighted for the first time in the annual Report on Motoring this year. Unsurprisingly, people living in rural areas are much more dependent on their cars than drivers in urban or even suburban areas. They spend more of their income on motoring costs and have much less opportunity to get out of their cars and use other modes of transport. But it is the stark choices they have to make, about when and where they use their cars, which could cause issues in the future.
If they can no longer afford to drive to work they could be forced to give up their jobs and claim unemployment benefit from an already cash-strapped State. And if they can no longer afford to visit friends and relatives, the psychological effects could be immense as people feel isolated and abandoned by society.
Drivers do want some change - but the priority is local change. However for this to happen, the Government needs to put together a national framework for transport which focuses on the local needs of drivers and then allow local authorities to get on and implement these changes in light of local motoring needs, while making sure policy remains joined up across the country.
Government should also bear in mind drivers want the available money spent on maintaining local roads and motorways rather than on building new ones. Any new investment in transport infrastructure should improve local situations such as reducing local bottlenecks.
Drivers are also looking to the Government to provide better enforcement of existing motoring laws. They are still concerned about other drivers' behaviour especially usage of mobile phones without a hands-free kit and uninsured drivers.
While a significant and growing minority do not believe they will get caught breaking motoring laws and the majority believe there are not enough police on the road, this desire for better enforcement continues. More visible and high profile policing is needed to make sure the minority that flout the laws are deterred.
Very few drivers believe the 'war on motorists' has ended, though it may have become a 'cold war' with some high profile initiatives aimed at gaining popularity with motorists while not impacting on the Treasury. But drivers seem resigned to this. However they do want the Government to improve their driving lives within its constrained budgets, but most importantly they want it to recognise the impact their financial measures are having on their lives and wellbeing.
Like the Government itself, drivers have a finite amount of money they can afford to spend on transport and that limit is rapidly being reached. If prices continue to rise unhindered, the implications for both drivers and wider society will be huge, potentially slowing the recovery and certainly causing hardship for millions of drivers and their families.
RAC Calls to action